Not Meant to Get Ahead

Dangling Carrot
The Dangling Carrot

Have you ever felt like you are simply not meant to get ahead … like, EVER? Being down one car payment and having finished paying off roughly a $45,000 debt in less than five years only to be almost immediately hit with unexpected expenses and getting sloppy with budgeting  (never mind sticking to a budget) feels like being punched in the face and gut at the same time.

Sorry! You don’t get to celebrate any Continue reading

Spent: Looking for Change Documentary | Money Matters

Nev Schulman shared this documentary, ‘Spent: Looking for Change’. It’s heartbreaking, eye-opening, and infuriating all at the same time.

I guess a lot of people hide what’s going on in their financial worlds. I know we certainly try to keep our financial situation fairly private. There are people who don’t have a clue how tight things are for us. They see us with two cars, a house, clearly not starving, and with occasional new things. That doesn’t mean we have an endless supply of money (or credit) to go crazy all the time. Only those who have read my previous blog posts or whom we have chosen to trust with our story know.

To know that this is becoming the new “normal” is disturbing. I say the prez should push a delete button to wipe out everyone’s current credit card and personal loan debt so we can all start over!

In case you’re curious about those previous blog posts mentioned above:

Between the documentary and the above reading material, I’ve probably kept you here close to an hour. o_O I hope it’s been insightful!

 

Senior Picture Controversy

One-Sided Spin on Rite of Passage

When I saw this Huffington Post story posted on Facebook this morning by Chris Parente, shared from the Colorado Everyday Show page, it struck a nerve … a BIG nerve. I have my topic for today’s blog post! Writing comes easily when it’s something you’re passionate about, and I am passionate about the value of photographs!

Colorado Everyday Show Facebook Post on Senior Pictures

This sparked comments that were mostly bent in the same direction. Some said they took their own photos in their backyards. Some had friends, aunts, and even a high school photography student take their senior photos (note: no one shared copies of these photos). Someone said they’d rather go to Sears. I guess they didn’t hear that Sears closed their portrait studios.😉 One person said that for $1200, you can buy an amazing DSLR [camera] and take your own photos.😀 OK! Because that’s all it takes to make a great photo. Pffft! Here was my immediate comment when I saw this post:

But it’s OK to spend hundreds on an iPhone (probably more than twice with newer models constantly coming out), thousands on Apple computers, who knows how much on designer clothes and shoes? Future generations will consider photographs priceless treasures. Sure, snapshots will also be treasured, but splurging a LITTLE on professional portraits (be they senior photos, family portraits, or just because) not only gives you amazing quality but, if you find the right photographer, you also have a great time in the process! I can tell which senior photos in a yearbook were done by professionals and which were DIY. Buying a “fancy” DSLR camera is not all it takes to get fabulous photos. If you don’t learn and fully understand all that camera can do and just shoot in “P” mode, you’re not going to get photos that look any better than a pocket digital camera. True story! I think the price is overboard in this particular story. There are many photographers who do NOT charge that much (myself included). I believe everyone deserves great photos without breaking the bank. What I don’t understand are the professionals who make everyone look plastic. Now there’s a whole other story.😀

Then I tuned in and watched the segment on the show and came back to post this additional comment:

I just watched the segment and think you guys spun a pretty one-sided twist. But I guess that’s just how media works. What can ya do? Senior portraits, in many cases, are more for the parents than the teenager. So it’s not about spoiling a child in most cases. It’s one more thing to make senior year special. It doesn’t have to be that expensive. You read Maritza’s comment in favor of hiring a professional photographer but then added a comment about looking back on it and hating it years from now. If it was done professionally, chances are pretty high you are not going to be embarrassed by the photos years from now. It’s the backyard snapshots done in harsh high noon sunlight that you’ll be embarrassed about.

The $1200 mentioned by the Huffington Post is apparently a national average. I can see that. There are very wealthy parts of the country that probably spend twice that on senior portraits, and there are areas who spend a fraction of that. The average amount spent on senior photos around us is probably closer to $300 or so.

Special photos for senior year is not a new concept. I went to a studio to have mine done nearly 30 years ago. I have no idea how much they cost, but I’m sure they were more than having the photographer hired by the school do them. It wasn’t a vanity issue then at all. That’s exactly the spin they were trying to put on it in this report. Vanity and being spoiled. There is a certain amount of vanity these days with all the social media networks. However, these photos are used in graduation announcements as well, and they represent a time in a teen’s life where they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Some are leaving the nest to go off to universities. Some are staying home to attend local universities, colleges, and trade/technical schools. Some are entering full-time jobs immediately. A few are getting married and moving out (or not moving out).

Senior portraits commemorate a rite of passage. That’s a priceless thing!

—————————————-

Shameless plug time! I’d be remiss if I didn’t promote my own photography here. I offer senior portrait photography as well as family and individual portraits and smaller weddings. See my website and my photography blog!

Debt Sucks!

It’s about to get real in here!

I struggled for a minute on a title for this blog and chose to go with the most blunt statement that came to mind. It’s true. Debt sucks! When others don’t understand because the words “We’re broke” or “We can’t afford it” seem to be over-used, it sucks even more.

Pushy sales people at mall kiosks don’t get it … or they seriously don’t give a crap about potential consumers’ financial situations or what they would have to give up for a month (or three) if they spent $99 on a curling iron because “it’s ceramic and won’t damage your hair” and “it comes with a lifetime guarantee” and you get “free hair styling there for six months”.

Hanging out with friends outside the home is rough because, well, consider how much a single beer (or soda) costs at bars! Want a mixed drink? Even worse!

Family dinners out at nice-ish restaurants? A rarity compared to before. This one doesn’t bother me so much anymore because I have a whole other issue with this. The portion sizes at such restaurants are ridiculous! I can make three meals of an order of seafood fettuccine from O.G. but if we’re not going straight home after eating, leftovers become an issue. We’d have to stick a cooler with ice in the boot before leaving home.

Perhaps the hardest part is having family in different states across the country and not being able to travel to see them. Understandably, airfare is expensive for anyone. The bigger heartache comes when some may continue to press for a visit saying we can drive it in a day, but they don’t understand that the extra gas money simply is not in the budget unless we want our utilities cut off or our children to forego birthday gifts. Here’s what they don’t know because we haven’t told them…

We have been in a debt management program for two years, and we haven’t used a credit card for at least three years. We will be credit card debt free in less than three years now, and I cannot WAIT to find out what that feels like! Until then, all extras are out of the question.

This (above illustration) is the whole picture people don’t see when they get one credit card after another. Sometimes it’s out of necessity, and that’s even sadder. Most of the time, it’s simply to live beyond our means. That’s how it started with us. When you first get married, you want to continue to have the same lifestyle you experienced while living in your parents’ homes. Who wants to go from comfort to struggle?! Well you should! Better yet, you should be taught well while still living at home. (Not pointing fingers here, but maybe the policy of not talking about money because that’s private is not such a grand idea.)

So when we say we can’t afford it right now, we really mean it. We’re not avoiding anyone. We would love nothing more than to take a vacation in California! It tears me up that I can’t just pick up and drive back to St. Louis to see family and friends whenever I want. I also have family in Florida, the farthest away and most expensive to travel to from Colorado.

When our daughter couldn’t go on a New York trip with her choir last spring because we didn’t have the money, it crushed me! But worse than that is the fact that she couldn’t go straight to UNC (best in state for all things theater) after high school because things are too tight. When Facebook was flooded with posts and pictures of her friends going off to college, it all but killed me.

On the other hand, I am bursting with pride seeing her go off to work at a full-time job now to earn and save money for college. Parents don’t want to see their children struggle to get by, but they should. Not living-on-the-streets struggle, but work-hard-for-what-you-want struggle.

Don’t worry too much, though. We aren’t in danger of losing our house or having cars repo’d. In fact, one car will be paid off early next year. (Tiny sigh of relief.) We make enough to pay for everything we currently have. We just can’t add to or replace anything right now (as much as I would LOVE to replace our torn leather couches that are falling apart). Things can wait.

Birthdays and Christmas have changed a lot, too. I now appreciate more than ever hand-crafted gifts. They truly are more valuable than mass manufactured items. The time and thought alone that goes into them … there are no words! You can’t put a price on that.

It’s certainly a different lifestyle than before, and it is hard to see our friends and some family continuing on with the same lifestyle we were living before when relying on credit to do so. Gone are the days of instant gratification for us. Now, that goal of being able to do the same with cash on hand has actually become a little exciting!

Credit cards are evil. There are other ways to build your credit. Few are disciplined enough to use a credit card “wisely”. Yes, it can be done. Often, it is not. Debt sucks!

Memories of Retail & Yearning to Craft Again

The Old Logo

Whenever I shop at Michaels in Southlands, I kind of feel at home. I have fond memories of working there, and I really enjoyed it. The only thing that started getting to me were the hours (including weekends). Get a fuller story here. I especially miss the 25% employee discount!

I worked under the old tag line “The Arts and Crafts Store”. Apparently they’re under new management and have made changes. Their new tag line is “Where Creativity Happens” with a much simpler logo.

The New Logo

No more red aprons, either. Now they require khaki pants and black tops. In the beginning of the changes, they wiped out all classes offered except for Wilton Cake Decorating (only kept because of a contract with Wilton). They finally brought the classes back, though! I had a brief, fleeting thought of becoming a Jewelry class instructor again for a little extra cash and for the discount, but the position has already been filled. Just as well! My availability would be very limited anyway.

Crafting is more enjoyable when you’re not being paid to do it actually. I hope to be able to make time for it again once I’m moved into my new office/craft space. My problem with making time is that I like to dive into projects and not surface again for hours. If I know I don’t have that long, I just put it off. <– said as I glance over at a necklace that has been laid out ready to be pieced together for many weeks now!